Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Come on man, be a woman": Turning into a woman on women’s day

March 8th is being commemorated as International Women’s day in all parts of the world. This year the United Nations theme for International Women's Day is "Equality for women is progress for all." It is heart warming to see that many in the church have started writing on the plight of women on women’s day. It shows that there is at least a small iota of hope, however far it may seem to us now.

Women’s day will be commemorated through various ways and means. There will be seminars, protest marches, worships, write ups and interviews of women who have made it big in a man’s world. From the perspective of a woman all of this is very important and provides an opportunity to talk about women’s rights at home, in the work place, with friends and maybe even in church. But what can a man do to feel the intensity of what it means for a woman to be accepted and be given equal rights?

Why not turn into a woman for a day and see what women really face in the world on an everyday basis. I am going to imagine my own life and the various instances and stories of the women I see.

So what do I get to see but conveniently ignore every single day of my life?

6:30 A.M.- My wife gets up and cooks breakfast and lunch while I rest saying that I was up working late.

7:00 A.M. -Wife is at the bed side when our daughter wakes up, reassuring her that her mother is there and asking her to cuddle and feel loved in the coolness of the morning.

7:30 A.M.- Wife brings breakfast to the table and sits with our daughter as I sip coffee and read the newspaper. I do say that it is urgent for me to read the newspaper as I teach about the mass media.

7:50 A.M.- Wife dresses up our daughter and gets ready. In between in all likelihood she has also found time to iron my dress.

8:25 A.M.- We drive to college. This is my first major work for the family in the morning. I drive to college!

8:32 A.M.- Wife takes our daughter to play school as I go to chapel. Since I am working in the seminary, it is important that I and not her is in the chapel! At least this is the lesson we have been taught.

8:57 A.M.- Wife has by now gone to the library for her own reading assignments and I am in all probability standing with colleagues and having a chat before class. I can notice that the loud laughs and confident talks are all by men while women are already sitting at their tables and talking in hushed tones, if at all. Women colleagues will be juggling between house and college work and will have a hundred things on their minds while the men will be having a good hearty laugh on politics in India or the state of roads in Bangalore.

9:04 A.M.- Classes start and one senses the difference between men and women in class as well. When women speak men make sounds, try to shout them down, and largely don’t take them seriously. When men talk, women are expected to listen with awe! The class representatives are invariably men, the discussions are by men and the decisions are also finally influenced by men.

10:55 A.M.- Coffee time and one can notice how men are more confident than women and how women are sitting more quietly and talking much more softly than men. Men on the other hand are confident and all over the place. The laughs and sounds are predominantly male.

1:00 P.M.- The situation in the dining hall is not much different. Men out number women everywhere. The jokes are male, the laughs are male, the food is male, the plates are male and the smell is male. Everything apart from the women themselves are male.

1:40 P.M.- People are walking around the lawn after lunch. The sounds heard are again predominantly male. There are women walking too but the body language of women and men is totally different. Women always seem scared and are looking out for themselves and each other. Men appear carefree and portray a “I care a damn” look.

2:15 P.M.- While walking past the men’s hostel one can hear a variety of sounds. It appears that men are having a good time inside. The same walk past the women’s hostel does not give many sounds. So less in comparison that you start wondering whether there is anyone inside!

4:30 P.M.- The small play ground has several men playing cricket and others playing badminton in the hostel quadrangle. Women are no where to be seen.

Coming back to my own house, my wife would have washed the plates, put our daughter to sleep and is tidying the house from top to toe. I spend time in the class room and office finishing up college work and reach by 5:30 or 6 in the evening. I say I am very tired with the lack of sleep and all the work in college. I never ask my wife whether she is tired.

7:00 P.M.- Any programme in church will bring a host of people. Many would want to speak to the pastor. It is noticeable that people will look with great interest if the pastor is speaking to a single woman. All eyes will be on the woman whether she likes it or not.

9:30 P.M.- Dinner is again ready on the table at home. I am back exhausted and manage to eat some food. I notice that my wife is reading a bed time story for our daughter before putting her to sleep.

An entire day passes and I realise that being a man has given me certain privileges in India. These are ill gotten and undeserving privileges. These are privileges that I should never have got in the first place.

On women’s day we do usually argue that there is no point in having one day set apart for women. But can men be a woman for one day? Just one day? As a son, a husband and father I may wash dishes, look after my daughter, cook at times, take care of the house and share house hold chores and be good to women students and women parishioners. But how often do I involve myself in that? How difficult is it to be a woman? Simple. Be a woman on women’s day.

Our culture brings up boys by telling them “Come on, be a man.” This needs to change. It’s women’s day. Take up the challenge. “Come on, be a woman.”

Picture courtesy

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